So many of us struggle with things like depression, bipolar disorders, anxiety and chronic illness. They can have deep, lasting effects on our everyday life, friendship and relationships. But what role do they play in our sex lives, and how can we help if we (or our partner) are suffering from a low libido caused by mental illness?
Everything is connected
First, we need to understand everything in our mind affects our body and visa versa. “Everything in our body is connected, and this extends to sex,” Dr. Andy Zamar, founder of the London Psychiatry Centre and creator the Prolong Device and Control Training Program, tells SheKnows. It’s the same as when you are feeling physically ill, tired or unhappy about something and your “sexual stamina drops,” he says.
A person’s mental health not only affects their energy and drive to want to have sex, but it affects their confidence and how they feel about themselves. This can make it hard to relax and enjoy the experience. If we are feeling depressed or anxious, it is hard to be present and in the right space to be intimate.
Low libido can affect our relationships
Zamar says there is no such thing as a “normal” sex life since the amount of sex a couple (or person) has is unique to them. However, if your libido is low and you are having less sex than your usual amount, or an amount that might make your partner feel rejected, it can have an impact on your relationship as a whole. It’s important to realize sex isn’t the only thing that matters in a relationship, but if your lack of sex drive is on your mind, it’s probably on your partner’s mind too and can be hurtful.
Our brain is where our sexual desires start
We’re not joking when we say that our brain is a sex organ.
“Our brain’s neurotransmitters and neural/nerve pathways tell our sexual organs we are interested,” Dr. Mindy Beth Lipson, a psychologist, tells SheKnows. So, if we have a disorder that is affecting our brain, our sex drive will either increase or decrease because of that disorder, just as our appetite or sleep can be impacted.
Communication is key
If you aren’t feeling like you are in the mood (or your partner isn’t) and think it may be for mental health reasons, it’s important you are open and talk about the problem. You need support and your partner needs to know it’s nothing they’ve done.
Zamar says it’s important no one is feeling pressured to perform sexually if their mind isn’t into it. This can make the problem worse. He also adds that it’s important to reach out for medical help and says it’s more than possible to get your mental health and sex life back on track.
What can you do if one of you is suffering?
If you are currently on medication and you are suffering from a lower libido, Lipson says you can request to get it changed. For example, some people experience a low sex drive as a side effect of taking antidepressants. Although this side effect is completely normal, it’s not something you necessarily need to live with, so feel free to discuss it with your doctor to see if there are other options available.
You must also be open and willing to talk to a skilled therapist, psychologist and your partner. You can also use “art, music and movement to help brain hormones,” Lipson says.
Learning how to connect in other ways besides being sexual can also help your relationship stay strong. Lipson says it’s important not to view sex as the only important part of your relationship and says, “Communicating open[ly] and honestly, sharing other forms of intimacy like deep thoughts, values and goals” can help us connect and build trust. This can make us feel safe and make room for us to feel desirable again.
Ultimately, how often you have sex is your decision, but if you feel like your low sex drive is a symptom of mental illness or a side effect of medication, it’s probably time to speak with a professional about it.